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Susan married Abdul Qadar, a Burmese Muslim residing in Maryland. He was a manager of a shoe company and frequently attended Friday services in the Laurel Mosque. One day he expressed his difficulties to me. He said, “I am married to a Christian lady. We are blessed with twin daughters and I am worried about the future of my children. I tried my best to bring my wife to this mosque but she totally refused. What should I do?” I advised him to bring her to our house for dinner. She will meet my wife and would feel more comfortable. This approach worked. Susan started coming to the mosque and also started attending sessions of tafseer(interpretations/explanations) of the Quran. A few weeks passed very well. One Friday I was conducting the tafseer session. I gave an explanation of a few verses of the Quran and then I invited questions from the participants. Susan asked a question. Another gentleman responded, even before I could say anything. To my surprise Susan started crying bitterly while sitting in the session. Everybody was confused. Abdul Qadar led her out of the mosque and drove her home.
Later on I asked Abdul Qadar the reason for her crying. He said, “Susan refused to go to the mosque again. She felt that her question had annoyed the person who answered it since he had a very serious face. She does not like to annoy anybody.”
To the best of our knowledge and judgement the respondent was not annoyed. He only had a serious look. I said to Abdul Qadar, “Please explain to her calmly and cool-mindedly that many people from India and Pakistan have serious faces. You can see this at any airport or bus station or shopping center. This is our cultural drawback.” Susan gradually digested this idea and after a few months returned to the mosque. She learned more and more about Islam every week. She found the question-and- answer session very beneficial in understanding Islamic values and faith. She developed many friendly relationships with other ladies in the mosque and received lots of encouragement and respect.
She liked this new way of life and wished to embrace Islam. I had the honor to invite her to recite the Shahada, the Islamic pledge, which is Ashhadu an La ilaha illa Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasoolu llah. (I bear witness that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is His Messenger). After that she was a Muslim and our sister in Islam. I also performed the Islamic marriage between her and her husband in the mosque the same day. Susan was enjoying a new life under the blessings of the Islamic faith.
During the Islamic marriage I explained to them that it was mandatory for the husband to give a mahr(dowry) to his wife. I also reminded them that the mahr is the personal property of the wife and she can use it in the way she chooses. The husband has no say in the matter throughout his life. Abdul Qadar eagerly agreed to pay the mahr. Susan was amazed to see the respect accorded to women in Islam and the way her rights are preserved. It definitely strengthened her Islamic faith. This situation took place in the State of Maryland.
It would like to mention a similar situation that took place in the state of Michigan a few years later. As the Imam of the Tawheed Mosque, it was one of my duties to perform marriages in this State. A young Muslim asked me to conduct his marriage ceremony. I explained to them the rights of men and women in Islam and about the mahr. Both of them filled out the prescribed forms for marriage and the form for payment of the mahr. Then, I asked them if they had any questions before entering into a marriage bond. The lady said, “I have no questions.” The young man said, “I have an important question to ask you.” He said, “I understand that I am supposed to give her the mahr and that will be exclusively her personal property. Is she not similarly supposed to give me a mahr?” I told him that in Islam the mahr is for the wife only. Like Susan, this lady was amazed to see such dignity and honor given to women in Islam.
She chose to be called Saeeda since she was very gentle and nice to everybody. She embraced Islam with clear knowledge, utmost sincerity and full commitment. She immediately started observing the full Islamic dress irrespective of fear from neighbors and the general public. Her daughters were going to elementary school at that time. She asked each of them to wear a headscarf in school despite of the fact that the children tried to make fun of them. I told her that it was not necessary for her young girls to face this difficult situation at school. However, she emphasized that they should learn and observe the Islamic way of life from their young age. So, Saeeda and her two young daughters wore the Islamic dress and looked very distinguished and graceful wherever they went.
This was her level of faith and commitment. Her husband used to laugh at himself. He felt that we born Muslims take Islam very lightly and hence our commitment is shaky. Abdul Qadar and Saeeda have a very peaceful and enviable family life.